After an eventful night around campus for Michigan State, but inside Munn Ice Arena, the MSU hockey team took a 4-2 win as they upset the No. 1 team in the world of college hockey. The Spartans handed the Wisconsin Badgers their first Big Ten loss of the season.
After a struggle to play the full 60 minutes in a handful of games in the season so far, MSU knew what needed to happen to take down the Badgers and put themselves ahead—one step closer to a sweep.
“You look at the numbers (in the league) and it’s tough. Every team is well coached, every team has good players, and there’s a lot of pride,” head coach Adam Nightingale said. “That’s the hardest thing in college hockey, and that’s what makes it special but Saturday night is going to be very challenging for both teams.”
With a high of 42 shots on goal over the course of the game for MSU, the team gave the Badgers a challenge on power plays, making rips toward the net and even earning a goal on the man advantage from sophomore forward Joey Larson.
“We obviously had some power plays where we took the shot count up a little bit,” Nightingale said. “I just thought that our guys work as a unit of five. There are no easy nights in this league. Obviously they’re (Wisconsin) a really good team, and so obviously we have to enjoy this and move onto the next game too.”
The Spartans saw a lot of success from every part of the ice, specifically on their penalty kill and their power play units, which did not disappoint as they went three for three on the kill and even made a few short handed shot attempts.
“I think even on the bench, a big key for us is to talk to each other and pump each other up,” grad student and forward Nicolas Müller said during the post game press conference. He was the first to put the Spartans in the lead tonight with the first goal of the game. “We did that well on the power play and the PK (penalty kill) and throughout the whole game, so that’s a big key for us.”
While the power plays and the penalty kills gelled together well, the team as a whole had great chemistry to quickly keep themselves ahead and never fall behind in goals.
“I think our biggest key for the game as well is to get the pucks behind them,” Müller said. “I feel like we have a strong forecheck if we get rolling with four lines and then we can get the pucks. If we’re in the O-zone (offensive zone) I think we’re a really dangerous team.”
As the Spartans take their 9-3-1 record into their final game of the series against the Badgers, they now know what it takes to complete the first upset on a number one team, and they hope to continue that forward.
“I think we will continue to focus on ourselves,” Nightingale said. “As we watch it back, things that we want to keep doing and playing to our identity. I thought that there were some times for sure that they (Wisconsin) were very dangerous in transition and they’ve got some guys with some big time speed. We’ve got to limit some of those chances where they get behind us.”
The Spartans round out the series against the Badgers on Saturday night at 6 p.m. back at Munn Ice Arena where they hope to fully dominate and take down the No. 1 team in the country with a complete sweep. The game will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.
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